Choosing anterior-gear modifications to reduce the global environmental impacts of penaeid trawls
The effects of reducing mesh size while concomitantly varying the side taper and wing depth of a generic penaeid-trawl body were investigated to improve engineering performance and minimize bycatch. Five trawl bodies (with the same codends) were tested across various environmental (e.g. depth and current) and biological (e.g. species and sizes) conditions. The first trawl body comprised 41-mm mesh and represented conventional designs (termed the '41 long deep-wing'), while the remaining trawl bodies were made from 32-mm mesh and differed only in their side tapers, and therefore length (i.e. 1N3B or 'long' and ∼28o to the tow direction vs 1N5B or 'short' and ∼35o) and wing depths ('deep'-97 T vs 'shallow'-60 T). There were incremental drag reductions (and therefore fuel savings--by up to 18 and 12% per h and ha trawled) associated with reducing twine area via either modification, and subsequently minimizing otter-board area in attempts to standardize spread. Side taper and wing depth had interactive and varied effects on species selectivity, but compared to the conventional 41 long deep-wing trawl, the 32 short shallow-wing trawl (i.e. the least twine area) reduced the total bycatch by 57% (attributed to more fish swimming forward and escaping). In most cases, all small-meshed trawls also caught more smaller school prawns Metapenaeus macleayi but to decrease this effect it should be possible to increase mesh size slightly, while still maintaining the above engineering benefits and species selectivity. The results support precisely optimizing mesh size as a precursor to any other anterior penaeid-trawl modifications designed to improve environmental performance.